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City tables request for more patrol officers

November 09, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN

daniels@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Police Department might need more officers, but it is not the only one of the city's departments that needs to increase its manpower, Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Tuesday during a city work session.

"We're talking about, without question, potentially, the largest tax increase in the city," he said. "I just don't think we can look at this in a vacuum."

Hagerstown Police Capt. Charles Summers asked the council Tuesday to increase the department's authorized, sworn officers from 101 to 105. Summers said the department has about 96 officers, down from 101 due to vacancies created by retirements, resignations, and officers on military call-ups and maternity leave.

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"It becomes a balancing point of how much service do you want to provide to service your community," Summers said.

Summers said the number of calls the department received increased from 52,476 in January 2003 to 57,890 in January 2005. He said delays in filling vacancies, including five created earlier this year by resignations and retirements, have exacerbated the department's manpower issue and stands to make the situation worse in the future. He said by mid-January, 15 of the department's personnel will be eligible to retire, including himself.

"If we had more resignations, more retirements, it's difficult for us to catch up on," he said. "Our department routinely works with less officers than it's authorized."

Metzner said while the department might have a real need to increase manpower, so do other city departments, including the fire department. He cautioned the council against locking itself into certain decisions too far in advance of the city's budget process to start with a staff presentation to the council in early 2006.

Councilwoman Penny May Nigh supported Summers' request but said she felt he underestimated the total number of additional officers the department needs given the rapid pace of development.

"I thought we needed more officers than the four?" she asked, questioning the council's priorities in not embracing Summers' request. " when it comes to safety we're going to sit and quibble?"

Summers said the department is not substantially affected by an increase in residential development because a majority of the department's calls are generated by commercial developments such as the Centre at Hagerstown shopping center.

"I think any department manager will always say we need more personnel," he said. "We think that is a justified, very reasonable increase. Residential development doesn't affect us as largely as commercial."

As part of his request, Summers wanted the council to approve the addition of two officers to the department's overall capacity, with the possibility of two more in the future. The council did not take action on Summers' request.

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